Neutron star ringing like a bell

A crusty star is ringing like a bell after one of the biggest explosions ever witnessed in the universe, Nasa revealed this week.
The star’s crust is a mile thick and so compressed that just a teaspoonful would weigh ten million tons.
The blast was the most powerful ever detected by a satellite in orbit called Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer.
Since it happened the neutron star SGR 1806-20, which lies about 40,000 light years away in the constellation Sagittarius, has been under intense scrutiny by astronomers.
They believe the explosion, first spotted 16 months ago, was caused by an earthquake in the star which is one of the densest objects in the universe.
It has nearly one and a half times as much material as the Sun crammed into a sphere just 12 miles across.
Tod Strohmayer of Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said: “We think this explosion, the biggest of its kind ever observed, really jolted the star and literally started it ringing like a bell.
“The vibrations created in the explosion, although faint, provide very specific clues about what makes up these bizarre objects.”
The star’s vibrations allowed the scientists to measure the depth of the crust around it. The neutron star – believed to be the collapsed remains of a supernova – is of a type called magnetars because it is highly magnetic.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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